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Another late-season surge [url=http://www.chicagobearsteamonline.com/jerrell-freeman-jersey]Jerrell Freeman Jersey[/url] , another first-round exit.

The Portland Trail Blazers head into the offseason with plenty of questions, with speculation that big changes could be ahead. Minutes after the Blazers were swept by the New Orleans Pelicans in the opening round, Blazers coach Terry Stotts was already addressing how Portland gets better going forward.

Stotts said he has confidence that Portland President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey will keep the team pointed in the right direction.

”It’s tough to evaluate after a playoff loss,” Stotts said. ”We had a good regular season. We did a lot of positive things in the regular season, but ultimately you’re defined by the postseason. I think it’s still a little early right now to say what direction we’re going to go and what needs to be done moving forward, but one thing is that Neil is really good.”

Portland made it to the playoffs for the fifth straight year after finishing the season 49-33 and winning the Northwest Division title for the seventh time in franchise history.

The Blazers were boosted by a 13-game winning streak that started with a victory over the Golden State Warriors just before the All-Star break, and secured the third seed in the Western Conference. The team’s streak matched the franchise record.

Damian Lillard drove the team’s success during that span. In March he averaged 27.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.5 assists. He also set a franchise record by making 64 straight free throws. He was named the West’s player of the week twice.

But New Orleans was able to contain him in the playoffs. He averaged 18.5 points during the series, after scoring 26.9 per game during the regular season.

”We had ups and downs early in the season, but we were really solid. We had a great group. We played together for the entire season. We stuck together for the entire season. You work so hard to give yourself the opportunity to play in the playoffs and it’s disappointing to lose it,” Lillard said.

The Blazers have lost 10 straight playoff games. They were understandably stunned when the Pelicans took the first two games at the Moda Center. While they fought in Game 4, it was too late. New Orleans had the momentum.

No sixth seed had ever swept a No. 3 in a best-of-seven series.

But the cracks were already there, when the Blazers lost four of their last five to end the regular season. Perhaps that late-season surge had caught up with the team.

”We had a very successful regular season, but kind of faltered down the stretch [url=http://www.greenbaypackersteamonline.com/ray-nitschke-jersey]Ray Nitschke Jersey[/url] ,” CJ McCollum said. ”We lost games that we felt like that we should have won, but put ourselves in a position to have home court, but lost home court as well. Losing in the first round is never ideal and never something that you want to experience, but it is what happened and we have to learn from it.”

Already there were rumors regarding Stotts’ future with the team, not to mention the status of several players. Olshey emphasized on Sunday that there would be no hasty decisions, especially in light of what the team accomplished during the regular season.

”It’s our job to be measured and not overreact,” Olshey said.

But like many of the players who faced reporters following exit interviews, Lillard was unsure of the solution.

”I’m not sure. I’m not the guy making decisions,” he said. ”It’s a great organization. I think everyone has done a great job. Coach Stotts has done a great job since Day 1. We’ve been in the playoffs five years straight.”

Alex Bregman hit a game-ending two-run double with one out in the ninth inning and the Houston Astros beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 Monday night to match a franchise record with their 12th straight win.

Houston trailed 4-0 after three innings but cut the lead to one entering the ninth.

Sergio Romo (1-2) walked Marwin Gonzalez to start the ninth, then allowed a single to Max Stassi. Tony Kemp’s sacrifice bunt moved both runners up, and Houston loaded the bases when George Springer reached on interference by catcher Wilson Ramos.

Bregman then drove a ball that bounced off the wall in left-center. He lifted both arms as he trotted into second base, and teammates mobbed him in the infield.

Collin McHugh (2-0) struck out two in a scoreless ninth for the win on a night Gerrit Cole walked a career-high five to help the Rays build the early lead.

Houston also won 12 straight in 2004 and 1999. The Astros will go for No. 13 on Tuesday with ace Justin Verlander on the mound.

NATIONALS 5, YANKEES 3, 1ST GAME

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WASHINGTON (AP) – Aaron Hicks’ go-ahead two-run homer sparked chants of ”Let’s go, Yankees!” on the road and helped New York beat Washington in the second game of an unusual semi-doubleheader, after pinch-hitter Juan Soto’s tiebreaking two-run shot for the Nationals won the opener.

These games originally were scheduled more than a month ago, and Game 1 resumed after being suspended because of rain in the middle of the sixth – so technically, Soto managed to homer in a game played before he made his major league debut.

Huh?

The 19-year-old Soto was called up from the minors for the first time five days after Game 1 started on May 15; it picked back up at 3-all and the Nationals about to bat in the bottom of the sixth. After Bryce Harper – who had a full beard back on May 15, when the game began, but was clean-shaven this time – struck out, and Anthony Rendon singled, Soto drove a 97 mph fastball from Chad Green (4-1) to the back of the second deck in right field.

RANGERS 6, ROYALS 3

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Bartolo Colon earned his 244th win, passing Hall of Famer Juan Marichal for the most by a pitcher born in the Dominican Republic, and Texas beat skidding Kansas City.

Adrian Beltre hit a three-run homer for the Rangers [url=http://www.greenbaypackersteamonline.com/blake-martinez-jersey]http://www.greenbaypackersteamonline.com/blake-martinez-jersey[/url] , who won their third straight game. The 45-year-old Colon (4-4) allowed three runs and nine hits in six innings to break a tie with Marichal on the career wins chart.

Only right-hander Dennis Martinez has more victories among pitchers from Latin America. Martinez, a native of Nicaragua, won 245 games in the majors.

Ian Kennedy (1-7) is 1-13 in his last 28 home starts. The Royals have lost seven straight and 13 of 14. They’ve dropped 27 of 37 games at Kauffman Stadium, the worst home record in the majors. Kansas City is 2-14 in June, having been outscored 95-35.

INDIANS 6, WHITE SOX 2

CLEVELAND (AP) – Trevor Bauer shut out Chicago for seven innings before a rain delay ended his night, and Jason Kipnis homered to lead Cleveland over the sliding and sloppy White Sox.

Bauer (6-5) allowed just three hits, struck out eight and was in line to potentially pitch his first shutout. However, the game was halted by rain in the seventh inning for 35 minutes, and manager Terry Francona pulled the right-hander following the delay and 100 pitches.

Roberto Perez drove in two runs off Dylan Covey (3-2) as Cleveland improved to 15-4 in its last 19 home games against Chicago.

The White Sox committed three errors – one by Covey – in the first three innings, lost their fifth straight and dropped a season-high 23 games under .500.

METS 12, ROCKIES 2

DENVER (AP) – Brandon Nimmo homered twice during a huge night at the plate, including an inside-the-park shot to begin the game, and New York finally gave Jacob deGrom some run support in a victory over.

Wilmer Flores and Devin Mesoraco also went deep for New York [url=http://www.washingtonredskinsteamonline.com/montae-nicholson-jersey]Montae Nicholson Jersey[/url] , which won its their third straight. Nimmo had four hits and set a career high with four RBIs – one night after his go-ahead, two-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning staved off defeat for the Mets and rallied them to a win at Arizona.

After pitching in terrible luck for weeks as New York’s hitters slumped, deGrom (5-2) got some help at last. He allowed two runs – one earned – in eight innings to snap a two-game skid and win for the first time in six starts since May 18 against the Diamondbacks.

PHILLIES 6, CARDINALS 5

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Left fielder Marcell Ozuna dived for and missed Aaron Altherr’s two-run double with two outs in the 10th inning, allowing Philadelphia to rally past St. Louis.

Tommy Pham hit a solo homer in the top of the 10th, one inning after a wild pitch on a strikeout kept the game going. But the Phillies rallied.

Rhys Hoskins hit a bloop single to start the bottom of the 10th off Matt Bowman (0-2). Odubel Herrera dived headfirst into first to seemingly beat out an infield single, but the play was overturned by a video review. After Carlos Santana was intentionally walked, Bowman struck out Jesmuel Valentin.

Altherr then hit a sinking liner that appeared to skip off Ozuna’s glove before bouncing to the wall.

PIRATES 1, BREWERS 0

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Trevor Williams pitched one-hit ball over seven innings and two Pittsburgh relievers closed out a two-hitter against Milwaukee.

Williams (6-4) struck out seven and walked two for his first victory in a month. Jordy Mercer drove in the lone run with a seventh-inning double, and the Pirates won for the fourth time in five games.

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